In rural Myanmar, residents protect police who reject coup

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In this image made from video, dozens of police show their support for pro-democracy supporters denouncing last week's government coup Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021, in Bardo village, Kayah State, Myanmar. (Khunbwe Mue via AP)

YANGON – Civil servants, even police officers, are risking their jobs to protest the military takeover in Myanmar, and one of the more dramatic examples of crossing that line also illustrates the deep roots of the country's ethnic conflicts.

In a small village in the eastern state of Kayah, 42 local police officers stood as one to declare their support for the protesters and refuse entreaties from a senior officer to return to duty. Residents streamed to the scene to protect the defiant police from arrest.

A video shot by a local man of Wednesday's drama showed how as the officer tried to cajole the group to return to the fold, a young policeman stepped forward to argue with him.

“If we go back with you it will be so different from what we desire,” said the younger man. “That’s why we have decided not to go with you.”

“Do you all agree?” he asked his fellow resisters, who shouted back: “We agree.”

While The Associated Press did not independently witness the incident in Bardo village, the cameraman who filmed it provided a detailed and extensive description of what happened.

The group stood behind banners, one of which read: “We don’t want dictatorship.” In the course of the full video, they frequently repeated chants popular with the protest movement, calling for democracy.

The officer paced down the line of the recalcitrant men and women. “We are a team, a troop,” he retorted. “We cannot stay like this for long.”